If you’re spluttering and sneezing around your beloved pets, you’re probably asking the question: Why am I suddenly allergic to my guinea pigs? And what can I do about it?
Now, don’t panic. In many cases, piggy parents aren’t really allergic to guinea pigs. Actually, people often assume they have allergies to guinea pigs when it’s a different problem altogether. So how can you figure out what’s really going on?
If you’re sneezing and wheezing, have swollen lips and itchy eyes, you could actually be allergic to your guinea pigs’ hay. We’ll talk you through the allergy to guinea pigs survival guide, so you and your piggies will be okay. Plus, we’ve got all the potential signs you’re allergic to guinea pigs, so you’ll know how to tell if you’re allergic to your guinea pigs or not. And if you, or someone in your household, are severely allergic to guinea pigs, we’ve got tips on coping with your allergy to guinea pigs and, ultimately, what the next steps are.
Lettuce get started!
Can you be allergic to guinea pigs?
If you’ve ever wondered, ‘Are guinea pigs hypoallergenic?’, we’ve got the answer for you: they’re not. Sadly, if you or someone close to you is showing symptoms that you’re allergic to guinea pigs, there is a chance you’ve got allergies to guinea pigs. If you do, there’s a number of things you can try, so the allergies affect you less. Let’s find out more!
Allergies to guinea pigs are pretty common
We’re sure you’ve heard of pet parents who sneeze when they cuddle their cats or get a runny nose when they’re with their dogs. The same can happen to piggy parents, we’re sorry to say. In an ideal world, cavy carers would be entirely immune to allergies to guinea pigs. The sad reality is that we can be allergic to our guinea pigs, just as we can be allergic to other pets.
The wonderful Kavee Kommunity has shared their experience with allergies to guinea pigs and their symptoms on Instagram, and this is what piggy parents have to say about living with a piggy allergy:
“I am! My eyes suffer the most. They get watery, itchy, dry and red.” - @happylittlebea
“I am definitely allergic to hay! Every time I go in their room I get hay fever symptoms like streaming eyes, itchiness and sneezing! When I touch it my hands and arms come out in a rash! After cleaning or changing hay I am so wheezy and my throat feels very itchy.” - @higgiepiggies
“My spouse is very allergic to cats and dogs, so we got guinea pigs. Turns out that I’m allergic to them! Or rather, their hay aggravates my sinuses.” - @megthegpmom
So, the verdict to the question, ‘Are guinea pigs hypoallergenic?’ is in - our floofers do sometimes cause an allergic reaction. Guinea pigs are not hypoallergenic. They can cause a runny nose, puffy eyes, and even an uncomfortable itch - and in really severe cases, it could end in an anaphylactic shock.
But how can you tell if you’re actually experiencing allergies to your guinea pigs, and what are the symptoms?
How do you know if you're allergic to guinea pigs?
There’s a few tell-tale signs you’re allergic to guinea pigs, and they are:
- A runny nose.
- Watery, itchy, and sore eyes.
- Asthma, wheezing, coughing, or shortness of breath.
- Skin reactions such as itchy skin, hives or a rash.
- A swollen face, eyes, lips or mouth.
It’s important to note that every person suffering from an allergy to guinea pigs can experience these symptoms in different combinations. One person may get an itch after cuddling their floofs, another ends up with swollen eyes and a cough simply by being in the same room as their pets. How bad the symptoms are really comes down to the severity of the person’s allergy to guinea pigs.
However, if your allergies and their symptoms are more severe or you’re not sure if your pet is triggering them, speak to your doctor about this. Your doctor can refer you for allergy testing at a specialist allergy clinic, where a test may be carried out using patches, blood tests or skin prick testing. This test will help your doctor identify what is specifically triggering your allergy and help them to create a treatment plan for you.
An allergy to your guinea pigs can affect your life, so the sooner you find out what’s happening, the better - for you and the floofs. Please make sure never to put your own wellbeing at risk while trying to figure out your allergy.
Why am I suddenly allergic to my guinea pig?
If you’re showing signs you’re allergic to guinea pigs, this could come from a number of reasons - and some of them aren’t even about your fluffy friends! To help you figure out what’s going on, we’ve looked at the most common causes for the symptoms of allergies to guinea pigs.
You're allergic to your guinea pig's hay
Have you ever gotten itchy after handling hay? Maybe you have even started to feel congested or teary-eyed after being in the same room as your piggies’ cage, which is full of hay. With up to a quarter of the global population suffering from hay fever, is it any surprise that our guinea pig’s favorite food stuff gives many of us the sniffles? So, what exactly does it mean when you’re allergic to your guinea pigs’ hay?
Hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis, is described as an allergy that irritates the delicate mucous membranes of your nose, eyes and mouth. This allergy is usually triggered by dust, pollen, or, in some cases, mold. That means, any time you add hay to your pigs’ home, you’ll notice you’re allergic to timothy hay (or other brands of hay).
So what’s the best way to deal with being allergic to your guinea pigs’ hay?
How to cope with guinea pig’s hay allergy
If you’re trying to make the most out of a difficult situation, you can try the following points to reduce the effect if your allergies to guinea pigs and their symptoms:
- Use good-quality, dust-extracted hay.
- Keep it in a closed container to reduce air pollution.
- Open windows during cage cleans.
- Use an air purifier to remove tiny irritants from the air, like dust and hay particles.
Hay fever is a common problem, and there are many types of medication to help hay fever sufferers cope with their situation. You can speak to your doctor to see what options are available to you, and if they’re suitable for living with pets that eat hay.
You’re allergic to your guinea pigs’ wood shavings
It’s possible to be allergic to certain types of wood and sawdust. Just like hay, even wood shavings marked as dust-extracted will contain an element of dust.
So if you use wood shavings as bedding for your guinea pig’s cage, you may find that it causes you to sneeze, cough, or wheeze, develop runny, itchy eyes or even skin problems such as rashes, blisters and itchiness.
You may also find that your allergic reactions intensify when you clean out your guinea pigs’ cage as you handle the wood shavings and inhale the dust.
How to cope with guinea pigs’ wood shavings allergy
Just like being allergic to timothy hay or other types, there’s also a few tricks to manage your allergy to wood shavings. Try these points:
- Wear gloves and sunglasses or goggles during cage cleans.
- Buy dust-extracted wood shavings.
- Store them in an airtight container.
- Open windows during cage cleans.
- Use an air purifier.
The best way to deal with being allergic to your guinea pigs’ wood shavings is moving to another type of small pet bedding. Kavee’s fleece liners are a great alternative that’ll keep you breathing freely while your floofs are dry and comfy. Plus, you can wash and reuse them again and again, unlike wood shavings, so they’ll save you money in the long run.
Go get yourself some fleece liners today!
You’re allergic to your guinea pigs’ fur, dander, urine, and saliva
Part of your guinea pigs’ charm is their silky, strokeable fur, right? But sadly, for some piggy parents, the floof can be an issue by triggering an allergy to their guinea pigs.
However, it’s actually more likely that you’re allergic to your guinea pigs’ dander, the official term for the teeny flakes of skin shed by any animal with fur or feathers. These microscopic pieces of dead skin can cause allergic reactions in some people if they come into contact with them - which of course you will do during cuddles and playtime.
You may be surprised to hear that you can also be allergic to your guinea pigs’ urine and saliva - yes, really! The Humane Society explains: “Some people are allergic to guinea pigs. These allergies are a reaction to proteins in the animal's saliva and urine.”
Sadly, the microscopic traces of these allergens can be transferred to you via your guinea pigs’ fur and dander, without you even realizing, when you handle your piggies and clean out their cage. Of course, you can choose to hold your piggies less often, but there’s no way around cleaning their cage.
So how can you deal with this allergy?
How to cope with an allergy to your guinea pigs’ fur, dander, urine, and saliva
This situation is a bit more difficult when you’re actually allergic to your guinea pigs. We recommend getting a professional assessment from a doctor, especially if the signs you’re allergic to your guinea pigs are quite severe.
In the meantime, you can try to wear gloves and long-sleeved tops when holding your piggies and cleaning out their cage to protect your skin from irritation. Keep your hands clean too.
You’re allergic to your guinea pigs’ food
Believe it or not, some foods produced for guinea pigs - such as pellet mixes containing cereals or mass-produced chew bars - contain artificial colors, which might trigger your allergic reactions.
How to cope with allergies to your guinea pigs’ food
Piggy parents with an allergy to their guinea pigs’ food may find that by switching out their guinea pigs’ pellets to one with higher quality ingredients may help improve their allergy symptoms. Your guinea pigs will also benefit from the increase in quality of their pellets.
Just make sure that any change is done gradually as you do not want your piggies to reduce or stop eating as they adjust to the new food.
If you do not wish to change your piggies’ pellets, you may also wish to consider using a dedicated scoop so that you do not come into direct contact with your guinea pigs’ pellets.
If you suspect that you’re allergic to your guinea pigs’ food, try a different brand. Natural grain-free pellets and snacks are best for guinea pigs (and allergy sufferers!).
What to do if I have a severe allergic reaction to my guinea pig
Severe reactions to guinea pigs are really rare, but sadly, they can happen. A severe reaction, known as anaphylaxis, causes your immune system to overreact by flooding your body with chemicals that can end with you going into shock. Anaphylaxis is a potentially life-threatening reaction so it is important to recognize the signs you’re allergic to guinea pigs and react quickly.
Signs that you’re severely allergic to guinea pigs are:
- Difficulty breathing.
- Swelling or tightening around your airways.
- Weak pulse.
- Clammy skin.
- Abdominal pain.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Sudden skin rash or pale skin.
If this happens, you need to seek medical attention straight away - no delays. If you or someone else goes into anaphylactic shock, it can ultimately be fatal if left untreated.
If you suffer from a severe allergic reaction, your doctor could advise you to carry an adrenaline auto-injector. This is a hand-held medical device that is prefilled with a dose of epinephrine. Epinephrine is a life-saving medicine that can help during an anaphylactic reaction. If administered, it is important that you still seek medical assistance as reactions can still proceed even after receiving a dose. For more information on adrenaline auto-injectors, it is important to speak with your health care professional.
What to do if I can’t manage my allergic reactions to guinea pigs
We’ve already found out that some people’s allergies to their guinea pigs are pretty mild, and other piggy parents really suffer. In the worst cases, their allergy to their guinea pigs can become life-threatening. If, at any point, you struggle to breathe or suspect you’re going into anaphylactic shock, time is of the essence - seek medical help straight away!
If there’s no medical emergency, but you realize you can’t manage the allergic reaction to your guinea pigs, it’s best to have an honest discussion about what’s best for your health. Sadly, it often means that those with allergies to guinea pigs and severe symptoms find a new home for their precious pigs. We understand that there’s no harder decision to make, but we need to stress the importance of looking after your own health and wellbeing first and foremost.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to give your beloved pets away to just anyone. If your symptoms are severe and you need to rehome your floofs sooner rather than later, you can contact a local rescue who can help you find a new home for them. If rehoming your pigs isn’t extremely urgent, you can select their new piggy parents yourself.
If you’re heading down this route, surrendering or rehoming your pets can be really hard. Know that it’s okay to feel how you feel, whether you’re devastated and heartbroken, or even a little relieved that you’ll be able to breathe freely again. Some piggy parents will feel guilty and experience a huge loss, almost as if someone close to them had passed away. Make sure to speak to loved ones and get the support you need during this difficult time.
Unfortunately, if you or someone in your household has severe allergies to guinea pigs and ends up being ill over it, there’s often no other choice. Once you’ve tried all of our suggestions to manage any allergic reaction to your guinea pigs, then the time has come to make the decision no one wants to face.
Once the decision is made, the next steps are either:
- Choosing a responsible friend or family member to take in your pigs and care for them.
- Contacting a local rescue that can take in your piggies and find a loving home for them.
Not sure how to find a rescue close to where you live? We’ve put together a guide of guinea pig rescues in the US and Canada. And if you’re struggling to find the right rescue, vets can be very helpful and often have great contacts. Find a list of cavy-savvy vets here!
Rehoming beloved pets is a decision no one ever wants to make. But if your allergy to your guinea pigs affects your day-to-day life and overall wellbeing, the sad truth is that it’s best for you and the floofs to part ways. They should be cared for to the best of someone’s abilities and you deserve not to feel sick because of your pets. As long as they’re in good hands, you’ve made the right choice. And also the kindest choice for everyone involved.
Guinea Pigs Allergy FAKs - Frequently Asked Kavees
Are guinea pigs hypoallergenic?
No, guinea pigs are not hypoallergenic. Just like rabbits, hamsters, and chinchillas, our precious pigs produce dander, small dead skin cells that can cause an allergic reaction to guinea pigs. Dogs and cats, and even birds, also have dander.
For this reason, hairless skinny pigs aren’t hypoallergenic either.
Why am I suddenly allergic to my guinea pig?
An allergic reaction to guinea pigs is an overreaction of the immune system, so this only happens right after initial exposure - when you first come in contact with the floofs. If you feel like you're suddenly allergic to your guinea pigs and showing symptoms, you’re probably allergic to your guinea pigs’ hay or other products, like the bedding or food.
Do guinea pigs have dander?
Yes, guinea pigs have dander, the small dead skin cells that often cause an allergic reaction to guinea pigs. Even hairless guinea pigs have dander and can cause allergies to guinea pigs.
Are guinea pigs bad for asthma?
Guinea pigs can trigger asthma as well as allergies in some people. And the piggies themselves can even (very rarely) get asthma themselves.